Header Art by Major Sniper
The past six weeks or so have been a period of tremendous upheaval in New Eden. As EVE Online heads towards twenty years old, there have been ebbs and flows with the quality of gameplay over the years. Generally, CCP makes changes, there is emotional debate about it, and then we figure out how the new system works. We adapt; we move on. The storm settles, and life continues on its merry way. This time, however, it seems that the enacted (and upcoming) changes are leaving too many questions for the greater community.
WINTER STATUS YEAR-IN-REVIEW
In November, CCP Games dropped a bomb on their subscribers with the introduction of many changes to raw material gathering, billed as ushering in the so-called ‘Age of Prosperity’. This was widely perceived as nothing more than a ‘mining nerf’. Changes to refining skills, the rework of mining crystals, and adjustments to almost every mining hull caused massive blowback. Moreover, the overwhelmingly negative response to the waste/residue changes has overshadowed any positives that are within the current rollout.
Traditionally, the Winter Status Update is a chance for the developers to communicate their vision for the next year. This time, however, the blog felt heavier on the ‘accomplishments’ of 2021 and light on the outlook for 2022. Battleship revamps in the works and a possible tweaking of citadel mechanics aside, the whole article was more worrisome than comforting. CCP stating that they’ll be ‘looking at sovereignty’ made many a null-sec resident’s hearts skip a beat in fear of yet another FozzieSov debacle. Social media outlets instantly exploded with speculation and worry about the future of New Eden.
CCP Games has since placed the compression change on hold until 2022 for more testing. Furthermore, they held a Q&A session on their Twitch channel, moderated by Carneros (leader of The Bastion alliance). Many players hoped that the livestream would be a chance to iron out some of the misconceptions. Yet more within the community held out hope that this was CCP taking the opportunity to listen to their subscribers.
Let’s Do a Livestream
CCP asked Carneros, a respected member of the EVE Online community (and a former CCP employee) to moderate the livestream. Many were excited for the chance to hear CCP Rattati (Director of Product), alongside CCP Swift and CCP Paragon (both of the Community Team) discuss the current/proposed changes with the community-at-large. Carneros reached out to players via a myriad of EVE-related Discord servers, and tried to put together a question list for the livestream on short notice.
The livestream chat was overwhelmingly negative during the entire broadcast. One criticism that presented itself was regarding CCP Rattati’s use of the term ‘dungeon’ (an industry term used to describe an instanced or sectioned-off section of content within the greater game world, usually for player vs environment, or PvE, content). Chat exploded with accusations that Rattati was intending to turn EVE into a PvE game without risk. Carneros, however, later discussed this over-reaction on the Sunday morning ‘DOWNTIME’ stream (hosted on Twitch by the author of this article). He felt it was an unfair and unnecessary attack, considering the greater problems that were presented during the Q&A.
One of the most disturbing portions of the livestream was the presentation of graphs supposedly supporting the findings of CCP Games. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are used to decide what areas of EVE Online need to be adjusted (i.e., ‘nerfed’ or ‘buffed’) in future updates, and measure if their current goals are being met. The first graph shown was presented as proof that their campaign against Rorqual use was ‘working’. The graph purportedly provided evidence that there was more diverse use of mining hulls thanks to ‘scarcity’.
Many of us viewing the livestream, however, saw the graph for what it really was; a tremendous drop-off in Rorqual usage with little increase in the diversity of mining hulls being used. If anything, it highlighted the fact that there has been a significant reduction in the number of raw materials being mined throughout New Eden over the last year and a half. The slight up-tick in mining over the past few months has more to do with the end of the Beeitnam War than it does with the changes implemented by the developers. CCP Rattati, however, claimed it as a win that scarcity had the desired effect of ‘depleting stockpiles’ of raw materials and capital ships, and thus helped to rebalance the health of the in-game economy.
Q&A Becomes Dodge & Weave
Scores of viewers in chat were now in a frothing rage. Many of Carneros’ questions were side-stepped or openly dodged. I consider most of the EVE Online playerbase to be of above-average intelligence, and even I felt like we were being talked down-to by the panelists. I understand that many aspects of game development must be kept classified during the development lifecycle. To state that you are going to hold a livestream with your subscribers as an opportunity to present a more open, lasting dialog moving into 2022, and then simply using it as a platform to justify the changes implemented over the past year, was insulting.
When will dreads become affordable again? We can’t say. Will Bounty Risk Modifiers (BRMs) be reviewed? No, they’re working as intended. If the BRM in your area is too low, just dock up or move somewhere else until it recovers.
Two questions that Carneros asked stand out as glaring examples of this egregious disconnect between CCP and the player base. First, in response to CCP Rattati’s statement that the BRMs and scarcity have worked to limit the ISK faucet used by RMT botters that violate the Terms of Service, Carneros asked what CCP envisioned players doing to generate ISK in the wake of such drastic changes to the financial landscape. The second question related to anticipation of new ship hulls/designs we could look forward to. Both questions were met with dead air and stares or non-answers. CCP Rattati’s fixation on navy battleship hulls while so many other ships are imbalanced is akin to Nero fiddling as Rome burns.
Where do we go from here?
Looking forward into 2022 is like staring into a fog bank filled with large, lurking shapes. They could turn out to be the monsters our imaginations usually jump to when it comes to the unknown, damaging our entertainment and desire to continue playing. Or, we could simply be overreacting, and the changes that will come with the latter half of New Dawn will bring about a new, more balanced style of play. The problem we keep running into, however, isn’t necessarily one of lackluster game-balancing by our friends at CCP; it is the abysmal communication disconnect between CCP and the players, and the subsequent lack of trust, that is causing problems.
I asked Carneros what would have made the New Dawn Quadrant more palatable. He suggested that a two-phase rollout would have been more successful. First, add in the ‘prosperity’ phase (200% to the various raw materials, etc.). This would allow players to get excited over the holiday break. We could get a feel for the ‘end of scarcity’ as a tangible, realistic event. Then, in a month or two, dial back if/as needed… but communicate it ahead of time with clear and concise goals. Simply put, a definitive end to scarcity, a visible beginning of prosperity, and then tweak as necessary for fair and balanced gameplay.
The Winter Update and farcical Q&A livestream demonstrate a continued disconnect between CCP Games and the overall playerbase. It is this writer’s opinion that the main problem we are experiencing right now has little to do with game mechanics. In EVE Online, there MUST be an open line of communication between the ‘residents’ of New Eden and CCP. In most other MMOs, this isn’t exactly necessary. Here, however, it is REQUIRED for the continued health and success of the sandbox.
EVE Online has a very unique culture amongst PC gamers; we are a breed apart. We can all agree that we expect better communication. CCP has a responsibility to the players to protect the legacy that we built together. That all starts with clear and solid communication. The Winter Update and Live Q&A failed to live up to those standards. As we move into the third decade of EVE Online, the future demands better dialog.
New Coronavirus variants and restrictions. Economic struggles and a changing dynamic of the workplace. Global supply chains still in recovery mode. New Eden tends to be the last (and occasionally best) refuge of happiness and social interaction for thousands of hard-working, good people. Clear, open dialog between the developers and subscribers does (and will) have far-reaching effects into peoples’ lives; more than just within the game itself. The excitement around FanFest 2022 is proof-positive of that. Here’s to hoping that the keynote address in Iceland will help to heal some of the rifts we’re experiencing now. Happy holidays, stay safe, and I’ll see you in 2022.